I'll say it again; Yoga is a powerful mode of exercise. It’s associated with an almost endless list of substantial health and fitness benefits and one of the best aspects of all is that you can practice almost anywhere.
While there is a lot to learn, discover and explore in the tradition of yoga, it is best to start simply and not let yourself be overwhelmed.
So here I have mapped out my three(ish) favorite yet simple yoga poses, or asanas, for beginners (and really for everyone!) Each asana will help strengthen and stretch major muscle groups and teach us about alignment. You'll find after doing these poses regularly, there will be a noticeable difference in your body.
1) Mountain Pose (Tadasana or Samasthiti)
On the quest for a strong yoga practice, this pose is the holy grail. Tadasana is the blueprint pose from which every other standing pose in your practice is born! It is the foundational asana for all standing yoga postures, full inversions, such as Handstand or Headstand and most armbalances. The alignment, muscle activation, and most importantly, mindset you learn in Tadasana are applied every time you do a standing yoga pose. So, it’s important to learn how to do it correctly. Once you understand the correct structure of Mountain Pose, you will begin to demystify the alignment for all other standing poses and inversions.
Yes, yes I know- it looks a lot like we are just standing around in Mountain Pose. However, when practices correctly, Tadasana will activate every single muscle in the body from our head, all the way down to our toes! Not only does an understanding of Tadasana shift our practice dramatically but it also deeply benefits our day to day lives by improving our posture, relieving lower back pain, and creating stabilized strength throughout the body.
2) Cresent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Anjaneyasna, or Cresent Lunge, is a pose found in most yoga classes, with several modifications and variations. Each variation offers up countless therapeutic benefits.
Really, this posture has it all. Anjaneyasana strengthens the quadriceps and glutes while simultaneously stretching the psoas and hips (thusly relieving sciatica pain, yay!) Because of its back-bending shape, as implied by the name, it also helps us expand the chest, lungs, shoulders and spine. Since this posture hits so many parts of the body its huge in developing stamina and endurance all the while improving our balance, concentration and core awareness. Did I mention I love this pose?
3ish) Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Just as Tadasana is the blueprint pose for standing asanas and inversions, Cow is the blueprint pose for backbends, such as Wheel and Camel, and Cat is the foundational pose for C-curve postures, such as child's pose, crow pose and handstand press. Through these two asanas we also learn the fundamentals of "bone-stacking", the important kinetic movement of the shoulders and chest, as well as alignment for our hips and tailbone when paired with the movement of our spine.
Aside from their foundational value, these two postures when practiced in unison are wonderfully therapeutic. The deep arch of the Cow stretches your neck and the front of your torso and releases the hip flexors, while the curve of the Cat helps to relieve stress by lengthening the spine and improving the circulation to the discs between the vertebrae. Your abdominal organs will also be massaged, stimulating both digestive and reproductive systems in your body.
But most importantly, the flow-through cat and cow helps connect us with our breath. In yoga mindful breathing is an integral part of the practice.
So there they are! My three absolute favorite foundational yoga poses. Join me in my YOGA 101: Beginner Series to learn more about these poses as well as many others.
YOGA 101 is the perfect entry point for brand new students or experienced yogis who want to revisit the foundations of the practice. We discuss the fundamentals of alignment, breathing and mindfulness as well as how to modify poses for our individual body types.